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Major General Lester Martinez-Lopez Receives Woodrow Wilson Award (web article)


Major General Lester Martinez-Lopez, MD, MPH ’84, received the Woodrow Wilson Award for Distinguished Government Service from the Johns Hopkins University Alumni Association at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health convocation ceremony on May 19. Martinez-Lopez was also the keynote speaker at the Delta Omega Honor Society induction ceremony on May 12.

Martinez-Lopez, who received a master of public health degree from the School in 1984, leads the U.S. Army’s infectious diseases and vaccine development mission at a critical time in our country’s history. He joined the active Army in 1978 at Fort Bragg, N.C., where he received his specialty training in family practice. His prolific Army career includes various medical and administrative positions. He has served as flight surgeon, family physician, chief medical officer and director of health services, among other positions. He has worked in such areas as aerospace medicine, health promotion, community medicine, medical research and hurricane disaster relief, and his career has taken him Korea, Haiti, Central America and Egypt.

He assumed command of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command at Fort Detrick, MD, on March 22, 2002. The command’s research includes vaccines for dengue fever, anthrax and hepatitis; anti-virals for smallpox and countermeasures for environmental, biological and chemical hazards.

“He has had an extraordinary career that has taken him from Haiti to Korea to hurricane relief. This is probably one of the best examples of what we hope to see: accumulating the academic preparation and then applying it and exerting influence for the better,” said Alan Lyles, DrPH, Delta Omega Alpha Chapter president and associate professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at School.

As commander, Martinez-Lopez oversees a complex structure with six major research laboratories: the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense, the U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory, the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research and the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine. Also under his command are more than half a dozen support centers, including The Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC), the U.S. Army Medical Research Acquisition Activity and the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency.

“What we focus on is disease,” Martinez-Lopez said. “In our medical department, we’ve been at war for the past 200 years. And the war will never stop. We have a charter—to deliver the best medical solutions for those soldiers, sailors and marines. The good news is that every single solution that we have come up with translates directly not only to the soldier, the sailor, the airman and the marine but also to the people of America and of the world.”

In response to the events of September 11 and the anthrax attacks, Congress allocated $90 million for homeland security by building the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center (NNACC) as part of the planned Fort Detrick Biodefense Campus. The new center, with a critical mission for national defense reporting to the President, will include a forensics laboratory to help the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and other agencies determine the origin and deployment of biological agents for terrorist purposes. Biolevel safety three and four containment facilities dealing with the most deadly and contagious agents will also be built. Increased collaboration between Fort Detrick, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the National Cancer Institutes—a direct result of the new organizational structure of the Department of Homeland Security—also falls under Martinez-Lopez’s responsibilities.

Born in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, in 1955 and reared in Maricao, Puerto Rico, Martinez-Lopez graduated from medical school in 1978 at the University of Puerto Rico, and completed his MPH degree at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in 1983. His focus was in environmental health sciences.

Martinez-Lopez’s personal awards, decorations and badges include the Legion of Merit, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Achievement Medal and the Senior Flight Surgeon Badge. He is a diplomat of the American Board of Family Practice and the American Board of Preventive Medicine. Major General Martinez-Lopez is a fellow of the American Academy of Family Practice.--Kristi Birch